Hand drawing and hands-on experience come together in a unique collaboration between a furniture maker and a design school.
There’s no substitute for hands-on experience – a fact that Eve Mercier, founder of Hong Kong’s INSIGHT School of Interior Design, understands implicitly. It’s an approach that’s at the core of Insight’s M.O., particularly when it comes to the school’s part-time courses and full-time interior design diploma.
Located in Chai Wan, Mercier’s school opened two years ago, when the French interior designer decided to change the face of interior design in Hong Kong. Mercier saw a gap in the market: young designers were struggling to get to grips with budgets, project management and client briefs.
The full-time diploma operates on this basis, with students taking part in five real-life design projects, which can involve everything from reconfiguring a gallery into a residential space through to designing furniture. Students get to work with real clients – including the likes of Alexander Lamont, a high-end, artisanal furniture brand that creates tailor-made pieces for the likes of Louis Vuitton.
Founded by Alexander Lamont, a Bangkok-based Brit with a passion for craftsmanship, the eponymous company is the perfect partner for Insight’s students. Lamont is determined to elevate Asian design, and to demonstrate that it’s just as good as, if not better than, design created in the West.
“I’ve seen what I believe are the best furniture makers, and it’s my view that if I just do something as well as they do, then I’m adding nothing to furniture design,” says Lamont. “But if my piece is opened and looked at carefully and there’s more, then that’s a different story. If the details are superior, if the materials and finishings are superior, then I’m leveling the playing field.
“I would like to see a merging of Asian designers that really brings out the quality,” he continues. “In Thailand, there are no schools teaching high-quality woodwork. There’s a lot of weight and responsibility on the people who are teaching [in Asia] to carry and develop these things.”
It’s no surprise, then, that Lamont agreed to collaborate with Insight by offering students a unique brief: “To design a table inspired by jewellery. You think of jewellery as an adornment, very often with pieces of furniture like this, they use these jewel-like materials. They catch your eye and open up a bit. The way a jeweller builds a ring is an approach you can easily apply to furniture. It’s a way into furniture I don’t see so much.”
Students had to hand-draw their design, as well as using SketchUp to give it life in 3D. At a time when designers and schools often turn to computer programmes if they want to draw anything, Lamont is full of praise for the by-hand approach. “If you’re trying to draw a curve, doing it by hand gives it an effect and a texture,” he says. “And if you’re in a meeting with a client, you need to be able to draw to explain something. Drawing helps you articulate it quickly. If you can’t draw, in a way, you’re speechless.”
Once they had finished their drawings, students had to put together brochures showcasing their creation, presenting this and their product’s selling points in an oral presentation to Lamont and their teachers.
Lamont admits the brief he gave them was a tough one. “I’d be nervous if I were them! It’s hard to come in without any drawing experience to a brief that I only find comfortable because I’ve thought about it for many years,” he says.
Students had been on the course for just seven weeks when they had to present to Lamont, but, despite this and the challenges of the task they were given, each of them produced exquisite, inspired designs – and they were able to communicate their creations to Lamont fluidly and with eloquence. Says Lamont, “They’re obviously very passionate about design.”
INSIGHT School of Interior Design